As everyone has seen in the e-mails from the Vice-Chancellor, The Saint articles, and various other spots throughout their news feed, St Andrews is doing very well these days for student satisfaction. As Deputy Viewpoint Editor, I undoubtedly will spend much time griping on about something I think the University is doing wrong or something it could improve upon throughout the year.
But before I get to that, I want to first say, having come to St Andrews as a postgrad from another university in the UK, St Andrews deserves all the acclamation it is getting, because it does a lot of stuff right that other places are getting wrong.
What makes me feel this way are the little things that the University does more rather than the big. The student ambassadors really aren’t lying when they say St Andrews does the little things ever so well. My sense of this started with the first trip down into the library’s kitchen area, having found myself peckish during a particularly testing study session.
Having access to a microwave, a toaster, plates, cutlery, and mugs was something I never had during my undergraduate degree, and it because it allows you to bring food to the library for lunch that you would otherwise have to was something that genuinely put a smile to my face. This makes such a huge difference go home for. When you live a half-hour walk from the library and like warm food, as I do, this saves me just eating at Greggs everyday. What really strikes me about this is that I don’t think my last university trusted students enough to have things like plates and cutlery around, and thankfully I’ve never seen an unwashed plate in the library kitchen, or anything to suggest that students are taking advantage of that trust.
What I love about this is the space is truly communal, as I’ve seen just as many staff taking advantage of the area as students. It really helps create a University community by having informal space shared by staff and students alike. On top of easy and obvious things, they are clearly listening to students. Some of the improvements are not ones I would imagine someone who wasn’t a student would come up with, like having a shush police to text because someone is talking in the library and automatic renewals of library books.
The thing I used to hate about three day loans was that it is so easy to forget to renew them—if you want to keep a book for over a week,you had to be vigilant about making sure to log in to renew the book. This is almost surely going to save students money, and at the very least can’t cost them anything. If the University was only looking out for themselves, they would never implement something like this because overdue fines are an easy way for them to rinse students for extra money.
Another thing that has helped St Andrews continue to maintain a good student experience is that they have tempered their expansion. Many universities have seen rapid expansion as an easy way to bring in more money, so halls of residences are going up as fast as possible, with little regard for how it affects the town.
Another thing I find quite interesting is the structure of the University. Other universities try to have as many departments and schools as possible to attract students, whereas St Andrews merges departments or simply doesn’t have them. This may seem like something bad, but having been at a university where they try to have as many as possible, I find it refreshing.
Because of an over-proliferation of departments, many of the departments had sub-par facilities, whilst others had great ones.This was a constant point of complaint for students, and so far I have heard none of these same complaints from students here.
None of this is to say that the University is perfect, or that they can just stop trying now because what they have done has been recognised. And most of all, it is certainly not to say if there is something the University is doing wrong, you shouldn’t contact an SU officer or make your grievance heard.
Grievances with the University are our bread and butter here in Viewpoint section, so if the University got everything right, frankly I’d be out of a job. Think of this as the ‘to be fair’ that comes along with the criticism of the University, the recognition of all the little things they are doing here that other universities aren’ t ,and how they actually do make a difference to the student experience.